Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I realize I should be wishing you “Happy Holidays” but this year I have decided to give up on all that nonsense. If you are not a Christian, please accept this greeting as one of goodwill as it is intended and not as the gun draw some may imply.

No matter what your beliefs, everyone feels a little more deeply this time of year. Whether it is the feeling of joy, love and happiness or the feeling of loss and loneliness. This is the time of year to come together and support one another.

This has caused me to ponder the reason for my own existence. As a business owner, albeit a new and struggling one, there must be more I can do for my community and the people who live here. Since I had the choice this year to either convince my own children they have been too naughty for a visit from Santa or explain to them the real reason for a lack of gifts, becoming a Secret Santa , although a more joyous experience I can not imagine, is a financial impossibility.

Thus the Christmas Book Drive was born. While planning this, an idea born of Give-A-Kid-A-Book, I failed to take into account the limitations of my community as a whole. Although 40 donated books is a start, overall my community does not have the financial ability to help others when they are in need themselves.

Based on the Socks Save Christmas Blog , the idea of Sorrows for Socks has been bouncing around in my overworked brain. The idea is simple – encourage area angels to donate the most outrageous socks imaginable and those in despair can stop in and choose a pair to brighten their day. Crazy idea, I know. The largest hurdle would be the same as in the Christmas Book Drive – finding enough donors. In addition, when I am most in need of the comfort of socks, I am in no mood to leave the house. How would I find those most in need of the psychological hug?

I’m counting on you, dear readers, to share your ideas on becoming an angel not only this time of year, but all year long.

Friday, December 14, 2007

2007 Bestsellers

The holidays are fast approaching and I finally have about two minutes to catch my breath. Two minutes really is not enough time for even me to come up with a creative blog idea so this week I'm going to cheat. The 2007 Book Sense Bestsellers list has been released, so my question for this week is:

How many books on the 2007 Book Sense Bestsellers list have you read and which would you recommend?

2007 Book Sense Bestsellers from sales at independent bookstores with Book Sense nationwide. For the Book Sense store nearest you, call 1-888-BOOKSENSEor visit


1. Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen, Algonquin, $13.95, 9781565125605

2. The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards, Penguin, $14, 9780143037149

3. The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini, Riverhead, $15, 9781594480003

4. The Road
Cormac McCarthy, Vintage, $14.95, 9780307387899

5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Lisa See, Random House, $13.95, 9780812968064

6. Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky, Vintage, $14.95, 9781400096275

7. The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai, Grove, $14, 9780802142818

8. The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho, HarperOne, $13.95, 9780061122415

9. The History of Love
Nicole Krauss, Norton, $13.95, 9780393328622

10. My Sister's Keeper
Jodi Picoult, Washington Square, $15, 9780743454537

11. Middlesex
Jeffrey Eugenides, Picador, $15, 9780312427733

12. The Emperor's Children
Claire Messud, Vintage, $14.95, 9780307276667

13. The Namesake
Jhumpa Lahiri, Mariner, $14, 9780618485222

14. The Whistling Season
Ivan Doig, Harvest, $14, 9780156031646

15. Astrid and Veronika
Linda Olsson, Penguin, $14, 9780143038078



1. Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert, Penguin, $15, 9780143038412

2. Three Cups of Tea
Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin, Penguin, $15, 9780143038252

3. The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls, Scribner, $15, 9780743247542

4. The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion, Vintage, $13.95, 9781400078431

5. The Worst Hard Time
Timothy Egan, Mariner, $14.95, 9780618773473

6. Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer, Anchor, $13.95, 9780307387172

7. The Devil in the White City
Erik Larson, Vintage, $14.95, 9780375725609

8. The Measure of a Man
Sidney Poitier, HarperOne, $14.95, 9780061357909

9. Dreams From My Father
Barack Obama, Three Rivers, $14.95, 9781400082773

10. Blink
Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay, $15.99, 9780316010665

11. Mayflower
Nathaniel Philbrick, Penguin, $16, 9780143111979

12. The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan, Penguin, $16, 9780143038580

13. Night
Elie Wiesel, FSG, $9, 9780374500016

14. Mountains Beyond Mountains
Tracy Kidder, Random House, $15.95, 9780812973013

15. 90 Minutes in Heaven
Don Piper, Revell, $12.99, 9780800759490



1. A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini, Riverhead, $25.95, 9781594489501

2. The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon, Harper, $26.95, 9780007149827

3. The Children of Hurin
J.R.R. Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin, $26, 9780618894642

4. For One More Day
Mitch Albom, Hyperion, $21.95, 9781401303273

5. Nineteen Minutes
Jodi Picoult, Atria, $26.95, 9780743496728

6. On Chesil Beach
Ian McEwan, Nan Talese, $22, 9780385522403

7. Lean Mean Thirteen
Janet Evanovich, St. Martin's, $27.95, 9780312349493

8. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon, $21.95, 9780375422737

9. Playing for Pizza
John Grisham, Doubleday, $21.95, 9780385525008

10. What Is the What
Dave Eggers, McSweeney's, $26, 9781932416640

11. The Maytrees
Annie Dillard, Harper, $24.95, 9780061239533

12. Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen, Algonquin, $23.95, 9781565124998

13. Bridge of Sighs
Richard Russo, Knopf, $26.95, 9780375414954

14. Run
Ann Patchett, Harper, $25.95, 9780061340635

15. Plum Lovin'
Janet Evanovich, St. Martin's, $16.95, 9780312306342


1. The Secret
Rhonda Byrne (Ed.), Atria/Beyond Words, $23.95, 9781582701707

2. The Dangerous Book for Boys
Conn Iggulden, Hal Iggulden, Collins, $24.95, 9780061243585

3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Barbara and Camille Kingsolver, Steven Hopp, Harper, $26.95, 9780060852559

4. I Feel Bad About My Neck
Nora Ephron, Knopf, $21.95, 9780307264558

5. The Audacity of Hope
Barack Obama, Crown, $25, 9780307237699

6. A Long Way Gone
Ishmael Beah, Sarah Crichton/FSG, $22, 9780374105235

7. Marley & Me
John Grogan, Morrow, $21.95, 9780060817084

8. God Is Not Great
Christopher Hitchens, Twelve, $24.99, 9780446579803

9. The Assault on Reason
Al Gore, Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594201226

10. You: On a Diet
Michael F.Roizen, M.D., Mehmet C.Oz, M.D., Free Press, $25, 9780743292542

11. Einstein
Walter Isaacson, S&S, $32, 9780743264730

12. I Am America (and So Can You!)
Stephen Colbert, Grand Central, $26.99, 9780446580502

13. Deceptively Delicious
Jessica Seinfeld, Collins, $24.95, 9780061251344

14. The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan, Penguin Press, $26.95, 9781594200823

15. The Best Life Diet
Bob Greene, S&S, $26, 9781416540663



1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
J.K. Rowling, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $34.99, 9780545010221

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $9.99, 9780439785969

3. Twilight
Stephenie Meyer, Little Brown, $9.99, 9780316015844

4. Eclipse
Stephenie Meyer, Little Brown, $18.99, 9780316160209

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $9.99, 9780439358071

6. Bridge to Terabithia
Katherine Paterson, HarperEntertainment, $6.99, 9780061227288

7. Forever in Blue
Ann Brashares, Delacorte, $18.99, 9780385729369

8. New Moon
Stephenie Meyer, Megan Tingley, $18.99, 9780316160193

9. Eragon
Christopher Paolini, Laurel-Leaf, $6.99, 9780440238485

10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
J.K.Rowling, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $6.99, 9780590353427

11. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K.Rowling, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $8.99, 9780439064873

12. Eldest
Christopher Paolini, Knopf, $12.99, 9780375840401

13. The Golden Compass
Philip Pullman, Laurel-Leaf, $7.50, 9780440238133

14. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K.Rowling, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $8.99, 9780439136365

15. The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan, Miramax, $7.99, 9780786838653



1. Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (Illus.), Harper, $8.99, 9780694003617

2. Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak, Harper, $17.95, 9780060254926

3. Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy
Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (Illus.), Harper, $16.99, 9780060542139

4. Fancy Nancy
Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (Illus.), Harper, $16.99, 9780060542092

5. Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Dr. Seuss, Random House, $17, 9780679805274

6. Dog
Matthew Van Fleet, Brian Stanton (Illus.), S&S, $14.99, 9781416941378

7. Flotsam
David Wiesner, Clarion, $17, 9780618194575

8. Pat the Bunny
Dorothy Kunhardt, Golden, $9.99, 9780307120007

9. Love You Forever
Robert Munsch, Sheila McGraw (Illus.), Firefly, $5.95, 9780920668375

10. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Bill Martin, Eric Carle (Illus.), Holt, $7.95, 9780805047905

11. Good Night, Gorilla
Peggy Rathmann, Putnam, $7.99, 9780399230035

12. Pirates Don't Change Diapers
Melinda Long, David Shannon (Illus.), Harcourt, $16, 9780152053536

13. Puff, the Magic Dragon
Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton, Sterling, $16.95, 9781402747823

14. Skippyjon Jones
Judith Schachner, Puffin, $5.99, 9780142404034

15. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle, Putnam, $10.99, 9780399226908

Friday, December 7, 2007

Socks Save Christmas

In storybooks, holidays are a time of peace and joy. Families come together from miles around to celebrate and the children’s excitement can hardly be contained. Reality may be a little different, however. Holidays can be a time of stress and money woes or of loneliness. For whatever reason, I have always struggled with the holiday blues, but I found some sure fire ways to make the season more bearable.

The first is by giving. No matter how bad things seem, there is always someone worse off. By giving of my money, time, or talent during the holiday season it helps me feel better about myself. This weekend is a gift wrap party at the store to wrap all the books generously donated by the community to less fortunate children. Check out what’s going on in your local area. You are sure to find organizations that desperately need your help whether to purchase or wrap gifts, cook food or deliver to the hungry, or to sing carols to the elderly. Be selfish this holiday season by making yourself feel great – GIVE!

Another great way to fight off the holiday blues is to read the satire Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Sure, Luther and Nora Krank, a typical middle-aged American couple who are fed up with the overblown holiday traditions, are not unlike some of us. However, the problems and solutions are hysterical when they happen to someone else! You do not have to feel guilty about laughing at this fictional couple and the struggles they face. I could not help but laugh out loud and that is an unusual sound to hear from me this time of year.

When all else fails, the answer is socks. I believe the world would be a much happier place if everyone owned a pair of fuzzy purple socks or socks so thick you can barely squeeze them into your shoes. Even the worst of days can be turned around by wiggling into rainbow toe socks.

What about you? Do you have a sure fire way to beat the holiday blues?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Magic or Mayhem

The Teen Book Club selection for November was Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. The magical powers, which the main characters possess, led to quite a discussion - not only in the book group, but among family and friends as well. Without giving away too much information, I will admit that Tris's magic fascinates me the most. If you haven't read any of the Circle Opens or Circle of Magic quartets yet, I urge you to rush to your local independent bookstore to pick up the entire series for your winter reading enjoyment.
If I were fortunate enough to possess magical powers or super hero abilities, I would choose the ability to fly. Oh, to soar above the earth on velvet soft wings- I envy Max and the gang!

Another group member’s greatest wish is to read minds. I believe that would be very troubling. Would the complete silence drive me mad?

A family member would like to bring back the dead For One More Day. I would think it would be too difficult to have to say good-bye once again.

What about you? If you could possess one magical power,
which would you choose?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Matter of Life or Death

Since I was a little girl I have been reading a book. Not the same book, obviously. Taking this many decades to read a single book would show my lack of reading skills or motivation or both. I need to be reading a book at all times, though - my life depends on it.

Yes, you read that right and no, I am not crazy. Well, maybe I do have a few screws loose, as they say. You see, I have a theory. When the time comes for me to leave this world, I believe God will look down on me with pity and say “She’s in the middle of a book, I will let her finish before I take her Home.” That makes complete sense, does it not?

My nightstand is straining under the pile of books stacked there. If I should happen to turn the last page while reading in bed, it’s imperative that I start a new book immediately. Even if that means struggling to keep my eyes open long enough to read a single page. As long as I am reading a book I will live forever.

According to To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, a new analysis of reading patterns in the U.S released by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as a follow up to NEA's 2004 Reading at Risk, Americans are reading less. The study also revealed that the decline in reading has civic, social, and economic implications. Nearly two-thirds of employers ranked reading comprehension "very important" for high school graduates. Yet 38 percent consider most high school graduates deficient in this basic skill.

Americans are busy people. And yet - on average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading. This leads me to believe that no one has the desire to avoid the end of this life as much as I do. Which reminds me; I finished The Will of the Empress, which I will be discussing next Friday, over my morning coffee. I need to read the first chapter of Astrid & Veronika before I get mauled by a pack of frantic shoppers.

How about you? Do you read on a daily basis and if so, when? An hour every night before bed or ten minutes in the morning before rushing off to work? Do you read over your lunch hour or while waiting to pick the kids up from school?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Now Hiring?

I’m on a mission. That mission is to make people more aware of the impact of shopping locally. That is why I joined America Unchained, a national campaign of the American Business Alliance, which will be taking place tomorrow, Saturday November 17th. The goal is to encourage citizens to do any business they plan to do on that day only at locally owned independent businesses. Many people do not realize the impact this would have on their entire community. Only 13% of dollars spent with chains circulates locally, while 45% of dollars spent with hometown businesses circulates locally* . In a small town, such as the one where we live and work, many people drive to other cities half an hour or more away to do their shopping in the malls and discount stores. Leaving the county to shop or shopping online helps our community even less.

In order to show the impact shopping locally would have on our community, I decided to use the actual dollar amounts instead of just the percentages. To get those numbers, I contacted the executive director of our county’s Economic Development Corporation. This is where the story gets interesting.

He believes part of a shop locally effort should address a few issues, which I will now attempt to do.

1. The hours that the local businesses are open vs. the work location of their customers. “…For example, a mechanic or dry cleaner that closes at noon for lunch will not get customers to come in on their lunch hour. A business that closes at 5:00 won’t see people that work (outside of our community) until 5:00. There are 6,500 people that leave (our community) each day for work in another community. Some (community) businesses recognize that but most don’t…”

Since I always have something to say, I have two comments to make about this statement. First is the most obvious. 6,500 people leaving our community to work in another is exactly why we should be supporting local businesses. If there were more thriving businesses in our community more jobs would be created and less people would have to go elsewhere to find work. The second is the fact that unlike big box stores, independent businesses, for the most part, do not need to guess at their customers needs. They actually listen to what their customers have to say and adjust their business to those needs to the best of their ability. In short, they open when the customers in the past have shopped and close when the customers leave.

2. “The customer won’t shop here if the retail selection doesn’t meet their needs”

Independent businesses are no different than any other business when it comes to this point. The fact is no store can carry every product. Unlike the malls, though, most independent retail stores are willing and able to special order what their customers need. As a bookstore, we can order just about any book in print and have it in the store usually within a week. The orders we place for our customers do affect our future inventory as well. If you, as a customer, stop in our store looking for your favorite author, whom we don’t normally carry since he/she is not a big seller in our area, you can order the book and usually have it within a week. If you stop in to order every time that author comes out with a new book, pretty soon you will no longer have to order. Why? Because we are a small business and we know our customers! Before long we will automatically order that author’s newest book, even if you are the only customer that has ever purchased one, because we know you will be stopping in for it. Do the big box stores do that for only one customer?

3. “ Most customers won’t shop locally just as a matter of community pride”

It will come as no surprise to you that I disagree with this statement as well. Our community recently completed a street scape project to beautify Main Street. What purpose would there be to this type of project other than community pride? Shopping local is about so much more than community pride, though. It is about giving back to the community where we live. It is about helping our police and fire departments, about repairing our roads and keeping our parks beautiful. It is about supporting youth football and little league, giving to the schools and the libraries. Imagine what your community could do with 32% more in their budget!

I believe I addressed all of the issues I was asked to address. Now I have one question of my own which I hope someone out there can answer for me.

If our Executive Director of Economic Development can so easily come up with three reasons why the citizens in our county should NOT support our local businesses, is this really the right person to be in that position?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Open The Blinds

Sunday, November 11th, 2007 is Veterans Day. This week's blog is somewhat of a struggle. There are a lot of great war books out now and what better time to promote them than Veterans Day? We could have a giant Veterans Day sale in the store to bring in lots of customers to spend lots of money! I have seen the ads. With the market the way it is, retailers need to make sales any way they can. That's business and I understand completely.

That does not mean I agree. Veterans Day is intended to thank veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions are appreciated, and to understand the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty. Who am I to try and profit from another's sacrifice?

Instead, this week I would like to share something I received by e-mail, which can be found at this link. I don't know who the author is and only hope I am not breaking any copyright laws by reprinting this. If anyone has any more information about this piece, please share. This touched me deeply and I hope it does the same for you.

Open The Blinds

The other day, my nine year old son wanted to know why we were at war... My husband looked at our son and then looked at me. My husband and I were in the Army during the Gulf War and we would be honored to serve and defend our country again today. I knew that my husband would give him a good explanation. My husband thought for a few minutes and then told my son to go stand in our front living room window.

He said, "Son, stand there and tell me what you see?"

"I see trees and cars and our neighbors' houses," he replied.

"OK, now I want you to pretend that our house and our yard is the United States of America and you are President Bush."

Our son giggled and said, "OK."

"Now, son, I want you to look out the window and pretend that every house and yard on this block is a different country," my husband said.

"OK Dad, I'm pretending."

"Now I want you to stand there and look out the window and pretend you see Saddam come out of his house with his wife, he has her by the hair and is hitting her. You see her bleeding and crying. He hits her in the face, he throws her on the ground, then he starts to kick her to death. Their children run out and are afraid to stop him, they are screaming and crying, they are watching this but do nothing because they are kids and they are afraid of their father. You see all of this, son.... what do you do?"


"What do you do, son?"

"I'd call the police, Dad."

"OK. Pretend that the police are the United Nations. They take your call. They listen to what you know and saw but they refuse to help. What do you do then, son?"

"Dad....... but the police are supposed to help!" My son starts to whine.

"They don't want to, son, because they say that it is not their place or your place to get involved and that you should stay out of it," my husband says.

"But, Dad... he killed her!!" My son exclaims.

"I know he did... but the police tell you to stay out of it. Now I want you to look out that window and pretend you see our neighbor who you're pretending is Saddam turn around and do the same thing to his children."

"Daddy... he kills them?"

"Yes, son, he does. What do you do?"

"Well, if the police don't want to help, I will go and ask my next door neighbor to help me stop him," our son says.

"Son, our next door neighbor sees what is happening and refuses to get involved as well. He refuses to open the door and help you stop him," my husband says.

"But Dad, I NEED help!!! I can't stop him by myself!!"


Our sons starts to cry.

"OK, no one wants to help you, the man across the street saw you ask for help and saw that no one would help you stop him. He stands taller and puffs out his chest. Guess what he does next, son?"

"What, Daddy?"

"He walks across the street to the old lady's house and breaks down her door and drags her out, steals all her stuff and sets her house on fire and then... he kills her. He turns around and sees you standing in the window and laughs at you. WHAT DO YOU DO?"



Our son is crying and he looks down and he whispers, "I'd close the blinds, Daddy."
My husband looks at our son with tears in his eyes and asks him. "Why?"
"Because, Daddy... the police are supposed to help people who need them... and they won't help... You always said neighbors are supposed to HELP neighbors, but they won't help either... they won't help me stop him... I'm afraid.... I can't do it by myself, Daddy ...... I can't look out my window and just watch him do all these terrible things and ... and ... do nothing ... so ..... I'm just going to close the blinds ... so I can't see what he's doing . And I'm going to pretend that it is not happening."

I start to cry. My husband looks at our nine year old son standing in the window, looking pitiful and ashamed at his answers to my husband's questions. He says...."Son....."

"Yes, Daddy?"

"Open the blinds, because that man...... he's at your front door... WHAT DO YOU DO?"

My son looks at his father, anger and defiance in his eyes. He balls up his tiny fists and looks his father square in the eyes, and without hesitation he says, "I DEFEND MY FAMILY DAD!!! I'M NOT GONNA LET HIM HURT MOMMY OR MY SISTER, DAD!!! I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM, DAD, I'M GONNA FIGHT HIIM!!!!!"

I see a tear roll down my husband's cheek and he grabs our son to his chest and hugs him tight, and says.... "It's too late to fight him, he's too strong, and he's already at YOUR front door, son... you should have stopped him BEFORE he killed his wife, and his children, and the old lady across the way. You have to do what's right, even if you have to do it alone, before it's too late," my husband whispers. "THAT scenario I just gave you is WHY we are at war with Iraq. When good men stand by and let evil happen, son, THAT is the greatest mistake, believing that the atrocities in the world won't affect them. YOU MUST NEVER BE AFRAID TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT! EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO DO IT ALONE! BE PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN! BE PROUD OF OUR TROOPS!! SUPPORT THEM!!! SUPPORT AMERICA SO THAT IN THE FUTURE OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER HAVE TO CLOSE THEIR BLINDS..."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Writer's Block

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “those who can’t do, teach”. Well for me it is “those who can’t write, sell”. Like many booksellers, as a child I dreamed of becoming an author. I would imagine stories so clear they couldn’t be ignored. Actually, I still do. The difference is, as an adult, I’ve come to realize a certain amount of talent is required to write an entire novel.

Stories are still my life as a bookseller and I love sharing my favorites with my customers. My desire to write stays hidden, but will always be with me. In the store we have a very creative and talented teen writers group which meets once a month. This allows the teens to not only express themselves, but also to boost their confidence by reading their work out loud. Each month they have a writing assignment, which they select since it is their group. Last month they wrote letters to their favorite author. The goal was to express why they liked the book and how it made them feel, but not to explain what happened in the book since the author obviously knows. It amazes me how fluently these kids write in comparison to the way they speak. I actually understood every word!

For one member’s selection, however, rushing out to purchase a book by her favorite author would be impossible at this time. This member wrote a letter from a fan to herself as the author. Talk about creativity! Was this fair to the other members who actually read a book and wrote about that? Hey, this is purely for enjoyment. No grades here! Creativity is the name of the game when it comes to writing fiction. Isn’t it? I’m just a lowly little bookseller encouraging these kids to follow their dreams. What do all of you authors think? What is your best advice for teen writers?

As a side note: For all of you aspiring writers out there, check out NaNoWriMo which is the largest writing contest in the world and is going on right now!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Horror Close to Home

The haunting season is here. For some that means curling up with a good vampire novel, but others prefer real life horror. For those brave souls who are curious about phantoms closer to home, Haunted Wisconsin by Michael Norman and Beth Scott features more than 70 true tales of terror throughout Wisconsin. With an assortment of ghosts, apparitions and other supernatural occurrences, Wisconsin could easily be called the most haunted state in America.

“….On a crisp, fall night in 1962, Pat Orcutt, of Whiting, Wisconsin, curled up in bed with the novel she was reading. About 10:00 p.m. she happened to glance up from the pages. Her grandmother was standing beside the bed. Nothing odd about that, except that Grandma Mamie had been dead for years and was buried in Elmira, New York.”
From There Goes Mamie in Haunted Wisconsin.

For anyone interested in peering into the edge of mystery, Ghost Stories of Wisconsin by A.S. Mott is sure to provide a chilling and unforgettable treat. If Ghost Ship gave you nightmares, beware of The Griffon!

In 1679 using the fortune he had amassed trading furs, French adventurer, Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, built a 60-foot-long sailing ship that weighed 45 tons and came equipped with five guns. The Griffon was the first of its kind to sail on the upper Great Lakes. The large ship launched from the Niagara River, sailed across lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan before arriving in Green Bay Harbor, where it docked at Washington Island. From there La Salle continued on a canoeing expedition, leaving six men on the Griffon with orders to leave Green Bay Harbor. Neither those men nor the Griffon were ever seen again. Five years later the ship, in a ghostly form, became a frequent sight on the waters of Green Bay.

Have you experienced a real life haunting or do you prefer fiction? What do you recommend this Halloween?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vampires for Love or Terror

Tonight is opening night of Oconto’s very own Trail of Terror. All month long fearless thrill seekers will be testing their courage in haunted houses and spooky trails just to prove their bravery. For those of us who refuse to submit ourselves to the embarrassment of shrieking in terror past a group of giggling thirteen year olds, a quiet night at home curled in bed with the lights down low and an open vampire book in our lap is just the ticket.

Bitten by the Vampire Craze from the Contra Costa Times discusses Americans’ fascination with vampires, which has lasted through decades of Halloweens. Vampires are hotter than ever. Stephenie Meyer, I’m sure, played a hand in their popularity, as did Kerrelyn Sparks' Love at Stake series. For those of you who are more into graphic novels than paranormal romance, there are three series that come to mind: Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino, Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber, and if you would rather destroy a vampire than marry one, Hellsing by Kohta Hirano. If you just want to learn more about vampires, you don’t want to miss Vampyre: The Terrifying Lost Journal of Dr. Cornelius Van Helsing. This highly interactive and terrifying book features enough information about vampires to keep you awake and trembling long into the night.

Who needs to stand in line for three hours in the blistering cold to test their courage? October is a long month, so I will need enough books on vampires, werewolves and other tales of horror to send shivers down my spine. What books can you suggest I add to my pile?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Choose One

Next week celebrates the tenth annual Teen Read Week. Today’s teens are so active, getting every teen in America to read one book during that week would be a dream come true. This thought caused me to ponder the question, if I could read only one book a year, which would I choose? An impossible feat! Of course, there are the obvious – the Bible, a dictionary or thesaurus (is it possible to write an email much less a BLOG without checking a dictionary or thesaurus even once?) or the phone book (believe it or not I still can’t order a pizza from memory).

So many books to choose from! For our book club I was engrossed in The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. Not once before this novel do I remember so fiercely desiring the death of the main character! If only Laura would freeze to death, fall through the ice, or be eaten by a waddle of penguins... (This is where the reference books come in handy – honestly, did you know what a group of penguins is called?) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was our teen book club choice. Humorous, frustrating, romantic, thrilling? Yes. The only book I could read this year? Hmm

There is a lot of great literature on my shelves and so many inspiring choices that have changed my life, but I can’t choose just one book for enjoyment. Can you?

If you could only read one book this year purely for enjoyment, what would you recommend?

Friday, October 5, 2007

To Read or Not To Read

When you browse through the bookstore or library, trying to decide if it will be a steamy romance or a heart pounding horror, have you ever considered not having the freedom to choose which books you can read? This week is Banned Books Week, which has been observed since 1982. It is a week to celebrate the freedom to read, the freedom to choose, the freedom to express our opinion, and the importance of our first amendment rights.

In 2006 the ten most challenged books seemed to share the same two themes. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Gossip Girls series by Cecily Von Ziegesar, Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky were all challenged due to homosexuality. While five others (Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler, The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier) listed sexual content as a reason for the challenge. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz made the list for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity.

The truth is, books are usually challenged with the best intentions - mainly to protect children from difficult "inappropriate" material. Although this may seem like a realistic idea, parents and only parents actually have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children to these resources.

As a bookseller, I have the pleasure of discussing books with many parents and grandparents who seem to fall into one of two categories. The first group encourages their children and grandchildren to read anything that may be of interest to them. They are thrilled that the kids are reading and are not about to discourage them. After all, anything they read in a book they have probably already seen at the movies, on TV or in a video game. The others are the exact opposite. They read everything before allowing their children to do so. Anything "inappropriate" the child is forbidden to read.

I have to admit, I fall into the first category. I feel that based on the child's background and experiences, that is how the text will be interpreted. For instance, a romance may have the sentence, "they fell into a passionate embrace". Based on what the reader may have experienced, that sentence may mean a big hug or to fall naked onto the bed.

So, what about you? Which of the two categories, if either, do you fall into and why?

Friday, September 28, 2007

New World of Words

Millions of children under the age of 2 watch TV and videos. A scary fact, especially for a bookstore owner whose purpose is to encourage children to read. However, believe it or not, this is not all bad news! What are these preschoolers watching? I’m sure if you are a parent or grandparent or if you have ever been a child yourself, you have some idea.

The first program that comes to mind is
Sesame Street, of course, which was created 36 years ago as a positive learning tool for preschoolers. What book lover would not love a program which teaches letters and letter sounds, exposes children to new words, and brings books to life?

Last month Word World LLC, under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, brought a new world to
PBS KIDS. WordWorld is a new concept in educational programming that makes getting ready to read enjoyable for preschoolers and their parents. This program brings a whole new group of friends, from hard working Ant to shy Sheep, to life. These characters may soon be as recognizable as the Muppets. What’s more, WordFriends, as they are known, are truly all about words. In fact, they are animals whose bodies are made up of the letters that spell the word they are. WordWorld may have been created as an educational program, but parents and preschoolers will be watching together for the adventure, humor, and to hear the “Build a Word” song at the end.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Young Adult

While flipping through a stack of books, I notice that many of them are listed as young adult books. What exactly is a young adult? Am I one? The last book I read was Perfect by Sara Shepard, thanks to my daughter. After finishing Pretty Little Liars, she proclaimed it to be the greatest book ever and said I just had to read it! Now after finishing the third book in the series, I have to admit, I despised this one as much as the first two. Not because it is a YA book or because of the way it is written or even because of the cover which depicts a too skinny, too pretty, too, well...too perfect girl. The reason I wish I never started this series is because I'm completely hooked! The first book left me hanging for six long months before Easter came and my daughter found an empty dust jacket in her basket. I didn't quite finish Flawless on time. Five months later she kept the third in the series hidden while she absorbed every word. Finally turning it over to me after declaring this the best yet. Now life will come to a standstill for another six months until the fourth and final, Unbelievable, is published. Who is "A"? Will Hanna survive? How can I, an intellectual woman, be hooked on a young adult series?

So, am I a young adult? I suppose I am, considering the oldest man in America lived until the age of 114. Others may say I crossed the threshold of middle age long ago. Either way, next on my list is Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, which is our teen book club selection.
I'm guessing, or hoping, I'm not the only adult reading young adult books. What about you? Have you read any good children or teen books lately? What got you interested in reading them in the first place? Please, let me know I'm not the only one!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fall Reading

Fall is here! Okay, maybe not officially, but I consider it to be fall when the weather man says I may need a "light jacket". In my case this usually means wearing long underwear, a turtleneck, and a hooded sweatshirt and still suffering through uncontrollable shivering. This occurs when the temperature falls below a chilly 60 degrees, which here in Wisconsin may occur anytime between July and October.

This morning while struggling to squeeze a damp foot into a wool sock, I began thinking about what a new season means as far as my reading habits are concerned. Obviously, as a bookseller books are never far from my thoughts. In the past I believe I actually read more in the summer months while laying outside absorbing the sunlight. Was that really my life? I don't remember enjoying that activity, or non-activity, as it certainly is, even once this year. Although, I do remember reading quite a few exciting new releases.

However, so far in September my reading has definitely increased. It's quite possibly due to my growing book lists that I will finish sometime in this lifetime, or possibly due to my increased waiting time. With school beginning again, there was plenty of waiting time in the dentist office, on the college campus, and after football practice.

This week I rushed through the ending of Ricochet by Sandra Brown in my haste to begin James Patterson's latest, You've Been Warned. Despite every intention of savoring this intense novel, I inhaled it in a day and a half. Not a typical James Patterson, but definitely a page turner until the very end. This morning after seeing the school bus round the corner I was finally able to bring my journey with Steve Martin and Born Standing Up to a satisfying end. Unfortunately you will not be able to say the same for another three months when the touching and humorous autobiography will be published.

Now it's your turn. Do you tend to read more or less as the weather turns colder? Have you read anything life changing or mind altering lately?

Friday, September 7, 2007

This I Believe

In 1951 legendary journalist Edward R Murrow sensed the need to help Americans reconnect with their ideals for living in a civil society, so he created This I Believe "to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization." Murrow believed this could be done through essays expressing a single personal belief shared on the airwaves. The program had an estimated audience of 39 million listeners.

In 2005 This I Believe returned to the airwaves thanks to National Public Radio and independent producers Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. Essays received from listeners and other contributors appear on NPR's website. The book version, based on the National Public Radio segments, reproduces the life-mission statements of people both unknown and famous.

"I believe that man's noblest endowment is his capacity to change." Leonard Bernstein

"I am happier when I love than when I am loved." Isabel Allende

"I believe in the power and mystery of naming things." Eve Ensler

"There is no job more important than parenting." Benjamin Carson

"I believe there is strength in surrender." Mary Cook

"Knowledge is marvelous, but wisdom is even better." Kay Redfield Jamison

"I believe in the pursuit of happiness, not its attainment, nor its final mission, but its pursuit." Andrew Sullivan

"I believe that the wonder of discovery can lift the spirit." Broam Greene

What do you believe? What were your greatest influences in shaping those beliefs? How have your beliefs changed throughout your life?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Teachers - Encourage or Discourage Reading?

Last week we discussed what book series may encourage kids to read. What is a teacher's role in encouraging their students to read? Is it possible for a teacher with the best intentions to actually have the opposite effect? My answer is a resounding YES!

First let me stress the fact that I am a huge supporter of teachers. In my opinion, they have the most important job in the world! Doctors, lawyers, the president? How would they do their jobs if they never had teachers to train and inspire them. This is definetly not a teacher bashing blog!!

Now, let me share the experiences of two students with you. Both had reading assignments and both had teachers who were doing their very best to encourage their students to read - one with possitive results, and one with the opposite effect.

The first student, we'll call her "K" as not to embarrass her (I know no one that knows our family will ever figure out the true identity of "K"), had to read a book of her choice and give a book report in front of the entire class! Every teen's nightmare, right? Not "K"! Although she is a quiet child and is like the majority who fears standing up in front of the class more than death, she was actually ecstatic about this assignment. She just finished reading the second book in her favorite series, so she decided she was going to give the report on both books. Unfortunately the speech did have a time limit so "K" lost points for going over. Of course, she probably could have shared her knowledge of the books without losing points if she would have just trimmed the last sentence off her report, "Both Pretty Little Liars and Flawless by Sara Shepard are available right here in Oconto at BayShore Books!" That's my girl!

The second student, we'll call him "C" even though the chance of him ever reading this are slim to none (Unless "K" tells "C" in which case the big "M" is in trouble!), also had to read but he just had to write book reports. He had it easy, right? Not so fast! He had to read a minumum of 4 books per semester for a C and do a book report on each AND the books had to all be about a specific subject. (The actual numbers and subjects here may not be accurate, since the gray hair roots have begun to strangle my brain. For that I apologize) The last semester the subject was World War II. "C" just recently discovered that reading can be fun when he stumbled upon Neal Shusterman. After devouring all of his books, he just began the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. He set book two aside to read his World War II books. The first couple were actually quite interesting and "C" even found another favorite book in My Mother Kept a Scrapbook: the True Story of a WWII POW, by Gerhard Johnson as told to local author Kathleen Marie Marsh. I find that usually a book or two on a certain subject is plenty to satisfy my curiosity and unfortunately so did "C". Once again getting him to read was like pulling teeth. He knew all there was to know about WWII and completely lost interest. He couldn't continue with the Artemis Fowl series, because if he was going to read he should be reading his WWII books. Guilt kept him from reading all together. He struggled through the last book or two, pulled off a C and then summer break began. Now he had the time to read what he wanted, but he couldn't remember what was happening in his series and he had no desire to start over. That passion for reading, which took years to establish, was completely wiped out in one school year. Luckily toward the end of summer he watched The Outsiders and is now reading his second S.E. Hinton book.

The point of this story? Telling a kid to read is not enough and telling a kid what to read can actually do more harm than good. Would the second story have been different if the assignment were to read at least 4 books a semester with only two of them having to be World War II books and each student choosing the others? I believe so. What do you think?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Raising One Out Of Four

Tuesday's Associated Press headline was this story about how one in four American adults did not read a single book last year.

My first thought was, we have to do something about that! But, where to start? The old saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. We have to work with the young dog, meaning children. How can we, as parents, as a society, as educators, interest our young people in reading? That is the question I hear every day. The kids today are into movies, computers, video games. How can we get them reading?

As a parent as well as a bookseller, I've found that getting kids excited about a series of books keeps them reading. Following the Harry Potter hype, this obviously works. The trick is finding the right series for each child. In my opinion, there are a lot more options for girls from Junie B. Jones all the way up to the Gossip Girls. Boys may take a little more imagination and research. The Magic Tree House series worked magic with my own son who thought reading was a chore. This series includes titles for every interest for boys or girls from the Arctic, to Tigers, the Vikings, or the Civil War. What series of books have helped you or your children become enthusiastic about reading?

Next post I will discuss my very strong opinions on what teachers may be doing to encourage or discourage students' reading habits.